Commentary Magazine


Topic: psychiatrist

Chinese Anti-American Propaganda Song Played at State Dinner

So that lavish state dinner President Obama hosted for Chinese President Hu Jintao last week? Turns out it was an even worse decision than previously thought. Not only did Obama honor a regime of human-rights abusers, but it turns out they weren’t even appreciative. According to the Epoch Times, a pianist at the event played a well-known Chinese propaganda song that’s about defeating the U.S. in a war. And it sounds like the Chinese government may have known the song would be played beforehand.

Lang Lang the pianist says he chose it. Chairman Hu Jintao recognized it as soon as he heard it. Patriotic Chinese Internet users were delighted as soon as they saw the videos online. Early morning TV viewers in China knew it would be played an hour or two beforehand. At the White House State dinner on Jan. 19, about six minutes into his set, Lang Lang began tapping out a famous anti-American propaganda melody from the Korean War: the theme song to the movie “Battle on Shangganling Mountain.”

The Epoch Times provided some of the song’s lyrics, which literally translate into: “When friends are here, there is fine wine /But if the jackal comes /What greets it is the hunting rifle.” The “jackal” line refers to the U.S.

The song apparently thrilled hardliners in China, who saw it as a major humiliation of America:

“In the eyes of all Chinese, this will not be seen as anything other than a big insult to the U.S.,” says Yang Jingduan, a Chinese psychiatrist now living in Philadelphia who had in China been a doctor in the Chinese military. “It’s like insulting you in your face and you don’t know it, it’s humiliating.”

The whole concept of the Chinese playing an anti-American song during a state dinner in their honor is too petty and childish to even be insulting. The embarrassing part is that Obama-administration officials didn’t bother to find out the background of the songs on the agenda before they were played. In comparison, the Chinese delegation reportedly knew about the song in advance, and may have been the ones who tipped off news outlets in China beforehand:

Cheng said that “The White House had to report in advance to the Chinese delegation and so the Chinese delegation would have certainly known Lang Lang’s program.”

Cheng believes, however, that the Chinese delegation would see no reason to suggest a change in the program. “The program is not against the interests of China. In fact, it is the opposite.”

Awful. This is worse than Obama’s bow to the Japanese emperor in 2009. The White House better have a serious explanation for why this song was allowed to be played at its own party. And it should also serve as a lesson to Obama for why we don’t throw state dinners in honor of openly anti-American governments.

So that lavish state dinner President Obama hosted for Chinese President Hu Jintao last week? Turns out it was an even worse decision than previously thought. Not only did Obama honor a regime of human-rights abusers, but it turns out they weren’t even appreciative. According to the Epoch Times, a pianist at the event played a well-known Chinese propaganda song that’s about defeating the U.S. in a war. And it sounds like the Chinese government may have known the song would be played beforehand.

Lang Lang the pianist says he chose it. Chairman Hu Jintao recognized it as soon as he heard it. Patriotic Chinese Internet users were delighted as soon as they saw the videos online. Early morning TV viewers in China knew it would be played an hour or two beforehand. At the White House State dinner on Jan. 19, about six minutes into his set, Lang Lang began tapping out a famous anti-American propaganda melody from the Korean War: the theme song to the movie “Battle on Shangganling Mountain.”

The Epoch Times provided some of the song’s lyrics, which literally translate into: “When friends are here, there is fine wine /But if the jackal comes /What greets it is the hunting rifle.” The “jackal” line refers to the U.S.

The song apparently thrilled hardliners in China, who saw it as a major humiliation of America:

“In the eyes of all Chinese, this will not be seen as anything other than a big insult to the U.S.,” says Yang Jingduan, a Chinese psychiatrist now living in Philadelphia who had in China been a doctor in the Chinese military. “It’s like insulting you in your face and you don’t know it, it’s humiliating.”

The whole concept of the Chinese playing an anti-American song during a state dinner in their honor is too petty and childish to even be insulting. The embarrassing part is that Obama-administration officials didn’t bother to find out the background of the songs on the agenda before they were played. In comparison, the Chinese delegation reportedly knew about the song in advance, and may have been the ones who tipped off news outlets in China beforehand:

Cheng said that “The White House had to report in advance to the Chinese delegation and so the Chinese delegation would have certainly known Lang Lang’s program.”

Cheng believes, however, that the Chinese delegation would see no reason to suggest a change in the program. “The program is not against the interests of China. In fact, it is the opposite.”

Awful. This is worse than Obama’s bow to the Japanese emperor in 2009. The White House better have a serious explanation for why this song was allowed to be played at its own party. And it should also serve as a lesson to Obama for why we don’t throw state dinners in honor of openly anti-American governments.

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‘Have You No Decency, Sir?’

I agree completely with Pete that Krauthammer’s column is a great blow to Krugman. It’s made all the more forceful by the fact that Krauthammer is not only a brilliant columnist but also a psychiatrist by training.

I also agree that this may be a tipping point in Krugman’s disgraceful career as a columnist. For one thing, he is intellectually lazy and seems to operate on the principle that a Krugman assertion is, ipso facto, an established fact. He rarely buttresses his assertions with evidence. His one bit of evidence that “eliminationist rhetoric” in American political life is overwhelmingly on the right was to quote Rep. Michelle Bachmann as saying that people who oppose the Obama agenda should be “armed and dangerous.”

Far worse, however, he is intellectually dishonest. Even the Times‘s first public editor, Daniel Okrent, said that Krugman has a “disturbing habit of shaping, slicing and selectively citing numbers in a fashion that pleases his acolytes but leaves him open to substantive assaults.” He is no less cavalier with quotes. As John Hinderacker at Power Line shows, complete with a recording of the entire interview, Michelle Bachmann was merely using a metaphor. She was holding a town hall meeting with constituents regarding the cap-and-trade bill and said, “I’m going to have materials for people when they leave. I want people armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax, because we need to fight back.” She was arming them with information, not bullets, so they could successfully oppose a terrible bill, not shoot politicians.

On June 19, 1954, Joseph Welch asked Senator Joe McCarthy, “Have you no sense of decency, sir?” It turned out to be the tipping point in McCarthy’s career, the moment when public opinion turned decisively against him. By the end of the year, he had been censured by the Senate. He died a few years later, the object of public scorn, which he remains for most.

I hope that Krugman’s column on Monday, when he shamelessly used a tragedy to smear his political opponents, will be his have-you-no-decency-sir moment. He deserves one. He is the Joe McCarthy of our times.

I agree completely with Pete that Krauthammer’s column is a great blow to Krugman. It’s made all the more forceful by the fact that Krauthammer is not only a brilliant columnist but also a psychiatrist by training.

I also agree that this may be a tipping point in Krugman’s disgraceful career as a columnist. For one thing, he is intellectually lazy and seems to operate on the principle that a Krugman assertion is, ipso facto, an established fact. He rarely buttresses his assertions with evidence. His one bit of evidence that “eliminationist rhetoric” in American political life is overwhelmingly on the right was to quote Rep. Michelle Bachmann as saying that people who oppose the Obama agenda should be “armed and dangerous.”

Far worse, however, he is intellectually dishonest. Even the Times‘s first public editor, Daniel Okrent, said that Krugman has a “disturbing habit of shaping, slicing and selectively citing numbers in a fashion that pleases his acolytes but leaves him open to substantive assaults.” He is no less cavalier with quotes. As John Hinderacker at Power Line shows, complete with a recording of the entire interview, Michelle Bachmann was merely using a metaphor. She was holding a town hall meeting with constituents regarding the cap-and-trade bill and said, “I’m going to have materials for people when they leave. I want people armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax, because we need to fight back.” She was arming them with information, not bullets, so they could successfully oppose a terrible bill, not shoot politicians.

On June 19, 1954, Joseph Welch asked Senator Joe McCarthy, “Have you no sense of decency, sir?” It turned out to be the tipping point in McCarthy’s career, the moment when public opinion turned decisively against him. By the end of the year, he had been censured by the Senate. He died a few years later, the object of public scorn, which he remains for most.

I hope that Krugman’s column on Monday, when he shamelessly used a tragedy to smear his political opponents, will be his have-you-no-decency-sir moment. He deserves one. He is the Joe McCarthy of our times.

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NPR Keeps Digging

Vivian Schiller, NPR’s CEO, who will be remembered for her firing of Juan Williams and her slander of him thereafter, has apologized. Sort of. Not to him, mind you. She has sent a letter that reads somewhat like a Dilbert cartoon — evidencing all the ham-handedness and nastiness you would expect, coupled with a little dollop of obsequiousness. She has written a letter to her “program colleagues,” revealing that Juan Williams had been warned (i.e., issued a verbal discipline) in the past — another inappropriate disclosure:

Juan Williams’ comments on Fox News last Monday were the latest in a series of deeply troubling incidents over several years. In each of those instances, he was contacted and the incident was discussed with him. He was explicitly and repeatedly asked to respect NPR’s standards and to avoid expressing strong personal opinions on controversial subjects in public settings, as that is inconsistent with his role as an NPR news analyst.

She concedes that others could disagree with the decision. (Like every newsperson in America and about 90 percent of the public.) She then vaguely apologizes for the way in which the firing was handled:

While we stand firmly behind that decision, I regret that we did not take the time to prepare our program partners and provide you with the tools to cope with the fallout from this episode. … I stand by my decision to end NPR’s relationship with Juan Williams, but deeply regret the way I handled and explained it.

I think she means she’s sorry she didn’t give them talking points, but she’s not ashamed she smeared Williams by suggesting that he talk to his psychiatrist (which he does not have). Not clear whether she also regrets the squirrelly manner of the firing — over the phone (classy, guys). She closes by asking for suggestions.

Here are three. First, fire Schiller, who has brought disgrace (well, more than before) on NPR. She fired a valuable commodity, slandered him, incurred the wrath of the journalistic community, and put her organization’s funding at risk. Forget the morality of it; she’s simply incompetent.

Second, fire all the NPR “analysts” who do precisely what Juan Williams does — offer opinions in public (does that cover cocktail parties, by the way?). If she’s serious about the grave nature of Williams’s offenses, she shouldn’t have singled him out, right? (If a conservative news outlet did this, the NAACP would have picket lines around the building.)

And finally, she promises that “[w]e will also review and re-articulate our written ethics guidelines to make them as clear and relevant as possible for our acquired show partners, our staff, Member stations and the public.” That’s a good idea — because if you have no guidelines or hopelessly vague ones, arbitrarily applied, you get yourself in a lot of hot water.

Vivian Schiller, NPR’s CEO, who will be remembered for her firing of Juan Williams and her slander of him thereafter, has apologized. Sort of. Not to him, mind you. She has sent a letter that reads somewhat like a Dilbert cartoon — evidencing all the ham-handedness and nastiness you would expect, coupled with a little dollop of obsequiousness. She has written a letter to her “program colleagues,” revealing that Juan Williams had been warned (i.e., issued a verbal discipline) in the past — another inappropriate disclosure:

Juan Williams’ comments on Fox News last Monday were the latest in a series of deeply troubling incidents over several years. In each of those instances, he was contacted and the incident was discussed with him. He was explicitly and repeatedly asked to respect NPR’s standards and to avoid expressing strong personal opinions on controversial subjects in public settings, as that is inconsistent with his role as an NPR news analyst.

She concedes that others could disagree with the decision. (Like every newsperson in America and about 90 percent of the public.) She then vaguely apologizes for the way in which the firing was handled:

While we stand firmly behind that decision, I regret that we did not take the time to prepare our program partners and provide you with the tools to cope with the fallout from this episode. … I stand by my decision to end NPR’s relationship with Juan Williams, but deeply regret the way I handled and explained it.

I think she means she’s sorry she didn’t give them talking points, but she’s not ashamed she smeared Williams by suggesting that he talk to his psychiatrist (which he does not have). Not clear whether she also regrets the squirrelly manner of the firing — over the phone (classy, guys). She closes by asking for suggestions.

Here are three. First, fire Schiller, who has brought disgrace (well, more than before) on NPR. She fired a valuable commodity, slandered him, incurred the wrath of the journalistic community, and put her organization’s funding at risk. Forget the morality of it; she’s simply incompetent.

Second, fire all the NPR “analysts” who do precisely what Juan Williams does — offer opinions in public (does that cover cocktail parties, by the way?). If she’s serious about the grave nature of Williams’s offenses, she shouldn’t have singled him out, right? (If a conservative news outlet did this, the NAACP would have picket lines around the building.)

And finally, she promises that “[w]e will also review and re-articulate our written ethics guidelines to make them as clear and relevant as possible for our acquired show partners, our staff, Member stations and the public.” That’s a good idea — because if you have no guidelines or hopelessly vague ones, arbitrarily applied, you get yourself in a lot of hot water.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Awkward. Charles Krauthammer vs. Tina Totenberg.

Unsurprising. “The knives are out for Christiane Amanpour at ABC News’ DC bureau.” The only people happy about NPR’s firing of Juan Williams are the ABC execs whose decision to put her in the This Week host chair is now a distant second in the “Top 10 dumbest news-division decisions.” (Parker-Spitzer on CNN is a close third.)

Stark. “POLITICO surveyed early voting through Saturday in 20 states, and in 14 of the 15 that have voter registration by party, the GOP’s early turnout percentage is running ahead of the party’s share of statewide voter registration — whether measured against 2006 or 2008, when President Barack Obama’s campaign led to a surge in Democratic voter registration. As a result, Republicans say they’re turning the tables on the Democratic dominance of early voting that paved the way for Obama’s victory in 2008 — and that independents’ lean toward the GOP this year will do the rest.”

Unbelievable, even for NPR. Bill Kristol on Fox News Sunday: “So much to dislike about NPR, it’s hard to know where to begin. For me, the CEO’s comment, I mean, the arrogance of it. Juan has worked at NPR for — how long? … And she, in a public forum, having had someone call you to fire you, not having had a meeting with you to discuss anything, says he should see a psychiatrist. I mean, that really is unbelievable.” Why isn’t anyone calling for her to be fired?

Pathetic. “The Democratic Senate candidate from West Virginia, Gov. Joe Manchin, says he didn’t understand key details of the health care reform legislation when he publicly endorsed it in March — an endorsement he has since withdrawn.”

Transparent. The new 2012 presidential contenders’ game is to run down figures like Karl Rove and leap to Christine O’Donnell’s defense to prove your Tea Party bona fides. Puleez. Is shilling for an unelectable candidate really going to convince voters of your own savvy judgment?

What?! Ari Berman of the Nation says a smaller, more leftist Democratic congressional caucus will help the party. This is the Newsweek theory of politics — we’ll have fewer supporters and be more successful!

Awkward. Charles Krauthammer vs. Tina Totenberg.

Unsurprising. “The knives are out for Christiane Amanpour at ABC News’ DC bureau.” The only people happy about NPR’s firing of Juan Williams are the ABC execs whose decision to put her in the This Week host chair is now a distant second in the “Top 10 dumbest news-division decisions.” (Parker-Spitzer on CNN is a close third.)

Stark. “POLITICO surveyed early voting through Saturday in 20 states, and in 14 of the 15 that have voter registration by party, the GOP’s early turnout percentage is running ahead of the party’s share of statewide voter registration — whether measured against 2006 or 2008, when President Barack Obama’s campaign led to a surge in Democratic voter registration. As a result, Republicans say they’re turning the tables on the Democratic dominance of early voting that paved the way for Obama’s victory in 2008 — and that independents’ lean toward the GOP this year will do the rest.”

Unbelievable, even for NPR. Bill Kristol on Fox News Sunday: “So much to dislike about NPR, it’s hard to know where to begin. For me, the CEO’s comment, I mean, the arrogance of it. Juan has worked at NPR for — how long? … And she, in a public forum, having had someone call you to fire you, not having had a meeting with you to discuss anything, says he should see a psychiatrist. I mean, that really is unbelievable.” Why isn’t anyone calling for her to be fired?

Pathetic. “The Democratic Senate candidate from West Virginia, Gov. Joe Manchin, says he didn’t understand key details of the health care reform legislation when he publicly endorsed it in March — an endorsement he has since withdrawn.”

Transparent. The new 2012 presidential contenders’ game is to run down figures like Karl Rove and leap to Christine O’Donnell’s defense to prove your Tea Party bona fides. Puleez. Is shilling for an unelectable candidate really going to convince voters of your own savvy judgment?

What?! Ari Berman of the Nation says a smaller, more leftist Democratic congressional caucus will help the party. This is the Newsweek theory of politics — we’ll have fewer supporters and be more successful!

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Flotsam and Jetsam

There’s an understatement: “Juan Williams said Friday morning that NPR fired him this week because the radio network had become ‘vindictive’ over his appearances on Fox News.” Exhibit A: “NPR CEO Vivian Schiller on Thursday said that Williams should have kept his comments between himself and ‘his psychiatrist or his publicist.’ Schiller later apologized for the comment.” As a recovering labor lawyer, I can tell you that’s a plaintiff’s dream come true.

There’s a signal here: “The average of these states show that early voting has shifted from a D+16.6 partisan split to a D+1.7 partisan split for a Republican gain of +14.9% since 2008.” So many voters operating with the lizard brain, aren’t there?

There’s another reason to repeal ObamaCare. “Congressional Budget Office director Doug Elmendorf said Friday that ObamaCare includes work disincentives likely to shrink the amount of labor used in the economy.”

There’s no indication as to how they feel about Juan Williams. “Al-Qaeda Troubled by Helen Thomas’s Firing.”

There’s no indication that Jews agree with the tut-tutters that Israel is too “divisive” a campaign issue. JTA reports: “The National Jewish Democratic Council is running a ‘Day of Action,’ a get out the vote effort, nationwide on Sunday. The Republican Jewish Coalition is  chockablock with events in the coming days, including an appearance by former Bush administration spokesman Ari Fleischer in Chicago, where a lot of RJC attention has been focused, backing candidates Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) for the Senate and Joel Pollak and Bob Dold for the House. The RJC is running TV ads in the Philadelphia area targeting Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), the candidate for the state’s open U.S. Senate seat — not for J Street deviations from dogma, as in the past, but for backing civilian trials for terrorists.”

There’s not a single one predicting the Democrats will hold the House (number of predicted losses are in parenthesis): Larry Sabato (47), RCP (“up to 57″), Charlie Cook (52), Jay Cost (61), and Nate Silver (51).

There’s a headline for Peter Sellers’s fans: “Not Even Clouseau Could Make Panthers Disappear.” Quin Hillyer cites the Washington Post front-page story from yesterday and explains, “[Eric] Holder’s stonewalling can’t work. The truth will out. The truth appears to involve a pattern of race-based enforcement decisions at DOJ. Such a policy is unlawful. Period.” Actually, “Exclamation point!”

There’s no hotter Republican than Chris Christie. “He quickly has positioned himself as a politician in tune with an angry and impatient electorate, and he’s already mentioned as a 2012 presidential candidate. He’s well aware that the fate of his fight with the teachers union could determine his own. ‘If I wanted to be sure I’d be re-elected, I’d cozy up with the teachers union. … But I want far-reaching, not incremental, change.'”

There’s a lot of hype in the reporting on the WikiLeaks documents, says Tom Joscelyn. But, he explains, the documents do confirm “that Iran was, and remains, a principal sponsor of Shia extremist groups in Iraq. These same groups helped bring Iraq to the brink of chaos — along with al-Qaeda, which was also happy to fuel the sectarian violence. … They killed far more civilians than the American-led coalition ever did.”

There’s probably been a more counterproductive ad than Jack Conway’s attack on Rand Paul’s religion. But I just can’t think of one.

There’s an understatement: “Juan Williams said Friday morning that NPR fired him this week because the radio network had become ‘vindictive’ over his appearances on Fox News.” Exhibit A: “NPR CEO Vivian Schiller on Thursday said that Williams should have kept his comments between himself and ‘his psychiatrist or his publicist.’ Schiller later apologized for the comment.” As a recovering labor lawyer, I can tell you that’s a plaintiff’s dream come true.

There’s a signal here: “The average of these states show that early voting has shifted from a D+16.6 partisan split to a D+1.7 partisan split for a Republican gain of +14.9% since 2008.” So many voters operating with the lizard brain, aren’t there?

There’s another reason to repeal ObamaCare. “Congressional Budget Office director Doug Elmendorf said Friday that ObamaCare includes work disincentives likely to shrink the amount of labor used in the economy.”

There’s no indication as to how they feel about Juan Williams. “Al-Qaeda Troubled by Helen Thomas’s Firing.”

There’s no indication that Jews agree with the tut-tutters that Israel is too “divisive” a campaign issue. JTA reports: “The National Jewish Democratic Council is running a ‘Day of Action,’ a get out the vote effort, nationwide on Sunday. The Republican Jewish Coalition is  chockablock with events in the coming days, including an appearance by former Bush administration spokesman Ari Fleischer in Chicago, where a lot of RJC attention has been focused, backing candidates Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) for the Senate and Joel Pollak and Bob Dold for the House. The RJC is running TV ads in the Philadelphia area targeting Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), the candidate for the state’s open U.S. Senate seat — not for J Street deviations from dogma, as in the past, but for backing civilian trials for terrorists.”

There’s not a single one predicting the Democrats will hold the House (number of predicted losses are in parenthesis): Larry Sabato (47), RCP (“up to 57″), Charlie Cook (52), Jay Cost (61), and Nate Silver (51).

There’s a headline for Peter Sellers’s fans: “Not Even Clouseau Could Make Panthers Disappear.” Quin Hillyer cites the Washington Post front-page story from yesterday and explains, “[Eric] Holder’s stonewalling can’t work. The truth will out. The truth appears to involve a pattern of race-based enforcement decisions at DOJ. Such a policy is unlawful. Period.” Actually, “Exclamation point!”

There’s no hotter Republican than Chris Christie. “He quickly has positioned himself as a politician in tune with an angry and impatient electorate, and he’s already mentioned as a 2012 presidential candidate. He’s well aware that the fate of his fight with the teachers union could determine his own. ‘If I wanted to be sure I’d be re-elected, I’d cozy up with the teachers union. … But I want far-reaching, not incremental, change.'”

There’s a lot of hype in the reporting on the WikiLeaks documents, says Tom Joscelyn. But, he explains, the documents do confirm “that Iran was, and remains, a principal sponsor of Shia extremist groups in Iraq. These same groups helped bring Iraq to the brink of chaos — along with al-Qaeda, which was also happy to fuel the sectarian violence. … They killed far more civilians than the American-led coalition ever did.”

There’s probably been a more counterproductive ad than Jack Conway’s attack on Rand Paul’s religion. But I just can’t think of one.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

It is getting worse, not better, for the Democrats in the congressional generic polling.

The recession has been worse for men than for women, but the Obama team needs female voters. So: “The National Economic Council released a report Thursday detailing women’s economic hardships and the different ways the administration is helping to alleviate their pain. … Economist Mark Perry, visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, told The Daily Caller that the lack of attention to the economic problems of men has been foolish. ‘My initial impression of the report is that it completely ignores all of the significant and disproportionate hardships faced by men in the recession. We just went through an unprecedented ‘mancession,’ and it’s still not over.'”

There are worse things than being fired by NPR. “Fox News moved swiftly to turn the controversy over Juan Williams’s firing to its advantage, offering him an expanded role and a new three-year contract Thursday morning in a deal that amounts to nearly $2 million.”

What is worse — firing Juan Williams or concealing the underlying reason for it? Fred Barnes writes: “I have no doubt that Juan’s comments about Muslims were merely a pretext. There had been prior run-ins between NPR and Juan over his appearances on Fox. But fire him over remarks that most Americans would identify with? I didn’t think the loathing of Fox would cause NPR to do something so ideologically driven, unprofessional, and bigoted. … The motto is, Fox is fair and balanced. Mainstream media types sneer at this. Juan actually embodies it. He’s both fair and balanced. NPR is neither.”

He says he’s not running. But is there a worse nightmare for Obama in 2012? “In one long year, Mr. Christie, the governor of New Jersey, has gone from little-known prosecutor to GOP rock star. The Newark native won last November on a blunt promise to fix a ‘failed state.’ He’d stop the ‘madness’ of tax hikes and chronic overspending. He’d demand New Jersey ‘live within its means,’ tackling the rich public-employee benefits driving the state off the cliff. He’d be straight-up with voters. The promises won him election; it’s the follow-through that’s won him acclaim. Democrats were appalled when he impounded $2.2 billion in spending; taxpayers cheered. The liberal class gasped when he vetoed a ‘millionaire’s tax'; business owners hurrahed. He’s demanding government unions help close $46 billion in unfunded pension liabilities. He’s tough-talking but common-sense, and his approval rating keeps going up.”

Hard to recall a worse pre-election argument than Obama’s faux science explanation for the rise of anti-Obama sentiment. A real, former psychiatrist comments: “Faced with this truly puzzling conundrum, Dr. Obama diagnoses a heretofore undiscovered psychological derangement: anxiety-induced Obama Underappreciation Syndrome, wherein an entire population is so addled by its economic anxieties as to be neurologically incapable of appreciating the ‘facts and science’ undergirding Obamacare and the other blessings their president has bestowed upon them from on high.”

If anything, a change for the worse. “A majority of voters in key battleground races say President Obama has either brought no change to Washington or has brought change for the worse. In 10 competitive House districts, 41 percent of likely voters say Obama has brought change for the worse, and 30 percent say he has made no difference.”

It is getting worse, not better, for the Democrats in the congressional generic polling.

The recession has been worse for men than for women, but the Obama team needs female voters. So: “The National Economic Council released a report Thursday detailing women’s economic hardships and the different ways the administration is helping to alleviate their pain. … Economist Mark Perry, visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, told The Daily Caller that the lack of attention to the economic problems of men has been foolish. ‘My initial impression of the report is that it completely ignores all of the significant and disproportionate hardships faced by men in the recession. We just went through an unprecedented ‘mancession,’ and it’s still not over.'”

There are worse things than being fired by NPR. “Fox News moved swiftly to turn the controversy over Juan Williams’s firing to its advantage, offering him an expanded role and a new three-year contract Thursday morning in a deal that amounts to nearly $2 million.”

What is worse — firing Juan Williams or concealing the underlying reason for it? Fred Barnes writes: “I have no doubt that Juan’s comments about Muslims were merely a pretext. There had been prior run-ins between NPR and Juan over his appearances on Fox. But fire him over remarks that most Americans would identify with? I didn’t think the loathing of Fox would cause NPR to do something so ideologically driven, unprofessional, and bigoted. … The motto is, Fox is fair and balanced. Mainstream media types sneer at this. Juan actually embodies it. He’s both fair and balanced. NPR is neither.”

He says he’s not running. But is there a worse nightmare for Obama in 2012? “In one long year, Mr. Christie, the governor of New Jersey, has gone from little-known prosecutor to GOP rock star. The Newark native won last November on a blunt promise to fix a ‘failed state.’ He’d stop the ‘madness’ of tax hikes and chronic overspending. He’d demand New Jersey ‘live within its means,’ tackling the rich public-employee benefits driving the state off the cliff. He’d be straight-up with voters. The promises won him election; it’s the follow-through that’s won him acclaim. Democrats were appalled when he impounded $2.2 billion in spending; taxpayers cheered. The liberal class gasped when he vetoed a ‘millionaire’s tax'; business owners hurrahed. He’s demanding government unions help close $46 billion in unfunded pension liabilities. He’s tough-talking but common-sense, and his approval rating keeps going up.”

Hard to recall a worse pre-election argument than Obama’s faux science explanation for the rise of anti-Obama sentiment. A real, former psychiatrist comments: “Faced with this truly puzzling conundrum, Dr. Obama diagnoses a heretofore undiscovered psychological derangement: anxiety-induced Obama Underappreciation Syndrome, wherein an entire population is so addled by its economic anxieties as to be neurologically incapable of appreciating the ‘facts and science’ undergirding Obamacare and the other blessings their president has bestowed upon them from on high.”

If anything, a change for the worse. “A majority of voters in key battleground races say President Obama has either brought no change to Washington or has brought change for the worse. In 10 competitive House districts, 41 percent of likely voters say Obama has brought change for the worse, and 30 percent say he has made no difference.”

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The Beinart Critique, Dismantled

In his new book, The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris, Peter Beinart, formerly editor of the New Republic and now a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, takes aim at the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

“There are no normal times.” With those words, written in 1991 and aimed straight at Jeane Kirkpatrick, the younger conservative generation fired its first shot.

The marksman was columnist Charles Krauthammer, an acid-tongued ex-psychiatrist from Montreal, and a man young enough to be Kirkpatrick’s son.

Beinart spends several pages summarizing and quoting from Foreign Affairs magazine, in which Krauthammer’s essay, “The Unipolar Moment,” appeared. Krauthammer argued: “We are in for abnormal times. Our best hope for safety in such times, as in difficult times past, is in American strength and will — the strength and will to lead a unipolar world, unashamedly laying down the rules of world order and being prepared to enforce them.” Krauthammer wrote that we must “confront” and, “if necessary, disarm” nations he called “Weapon States” like Iraq under Saddam Hussein and North Korea.

Beinart didn’t like “The Unipolar Moment” and wrote this:

It was no coincidence that Krauthammer published his attack on Kirkpatrick soon after the Gulf War. As usual in the development of hubris bubbles, it was only once things that formerly looked hard — like liberating Kuwait — had been made to look easy that people set their sights higher. Had America proved militarily unable to keep Saddam from gobbling his neighbors, Krauthammer could not have seriously proposed launching a new war, inside Iraq itself, to rid him of his unconventional weapons.

That all sounds very intriguing, except for one thing. On the first page of the Krauthammer essay, in the by-line, we read this:

Charles Krauthammer is a syndicated columnist. This article is adapted from the author’s Henry M. Jackson Memorial Lecture delivered in Washington, D.C., Sept. 18, 1990.

Why does that matter? Because Krauthammer’s essay was adopted from a lecture he gave months before there could possibly have been a “hubris bubble.” Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait occurred on August 2, 1990. Krauthammer delivered his lecture on September 18. Operation Desert Storm didn’t begin until January 17, 1991. And hostilities ceased on February 28. The timeline of events, then, demolishes the Beinart critique.

The Krauthammer lecture itself, it’s worth adding, was no state secret. It was public, it was published, and it has been available as a monograph, in addition to the reference in the Foreign Affairs essay. In reading “The Unipolar Moment” — which was published months after the lecture on which it was based and which is not substantively different from the September 18 lecture — it is clear that the outcome of the war was unknown at the time it was written.

So Krauthammer didn’t set his sights higher because the liberation of Kuwait had been “made to look easy.” When he articulated his views on the “unipolar moment,” Kuwait had been invaded but it hadn’t been liberated. The U.S. was still months away from war. And, in fact, many predicted that if America went to war, it would be a difficult and bloody undertaking. (“Amid talk of body bags, honor and patriotism, the U.S. Congress yesterday began a formal debate on whether to go to war in the Persian Gulf,” the Toronto Star reported on January 11, 1991. “‘The 45,000 body bags that the Pentagon has sent to the gulf are all the evidence we need of the high cost in blood,’ said Senator Edward Kennedy. He added some military experts have estimated American casualties at the rate of 3,000 a week.”) That explains, in part, why the Senate vote on the Gulf War resolution was so close (52-47).

All of this is noteworthy not simply because of Beinart’s sloppiness (which is noteworthy enough), but because Beinart concocts an interpretative theory that is utter nonsense. It is based on a completely wrong premise. He builds a false explanation based on a false fact.

Beinart is not the first to have done so. On November 29, 2009 Andrew Sullivan, in a posting titled “The Positioning of Charles Krauthammer,” charged that while he had advocated a gasoline tax in December 2008, in Krauthammer’s “latest column” on climate change, “the gas tax idea is missing.” The reason, Sullivan informed us, was that “In the end, the conservative intelligentsia is much more invested in obstructing and thereby neutering Obama and the Democrats than in solving any actual problems in front of us. It’s a game for them, and they play it with impunity.”

There was one problem with Sullivan’s analysis: the column he refers to was published not in November 2009 but in May 2008 — when George W. Bush was still president and Barack Obama hadn’t yet won the Democratic nomination. Krauthammer proceeded to eviscerate Sullivan, who had the decency to issue an abject apology and correction. I wonder if Beinart will show the same decency, having made the same error.

I have some advice for liberals in general, but most especially for those who formerly edited the New Republic. First, learn to read dates on essays and columns before you attack them. Second, don’t impugn a person’s motives when your charges can so easily be shown to be false. And third, if you decide to target an individual and engage in a public debate, you might think about choosing someone other than Charles Krauthammer. Otherwise you will be made to look like fools.

In his new book, The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris, Peter Beinart, formerly editor of the New Republic and now a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, takes aim at the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

“There are no normal times.” With those words, written in 1991 and aimed straight at Jeane Kirkpatrick, the younger conservative generation fired its first shot.

The marksman was columnist Charles Krauthammer, an acid-tongued ex-psychiatrist from Montreal, and a man young enough to be Kirkpatrick’s son.

Beinart spends several pages summarizing and quoting from Foreign Affairs magazine, in which Krauthammer’s essay, “The Unipolar Moment,” appeared. Krauthammer argued: “We are in for abnormal times. Our best hope for safety in such times, as in difficult times past, is in American strength and will — the strength and will to lead a unipolar world, unashamedly laying down the rules of world order and being prepared to enforce them.” Krauthammer wrote that we must “confront” and, “if necessary, disarm” nations he called “Weapon States” like Iraq under Saddam Hussein and North Korea.

Beinart didn’t like “The Unipolar Moment” and wrote this:

It was no coincidence that Krauthammer published his attack on Kirkpatrick soon after the Gulf War. As usual in the development of hubris bubbles, it was only once things that formerly looked hard — like liberating Kuwait — had been made to look easy that people set their sights higher. Had America proved militarily unable to keep Saddam from gobbling his neighbors, Krauthammer could not have seriously proposed launching a new war, inside Iraq itself, to rid him of his unconventional weapons.

That all sounds very intriguing, except for one thing. On the first page of the Krauthammer essay, in the by-line, we read this:

Charles Krauthammer is a syndicated columnist. This article is adapted from the author’s Henry M. Jackson Memorial Lecture delivered in Washington, D.C., Sept. 18, 1990.

Why does that matter? Because Krauthammer’s essay was adopted from a lecture he gave months before there could possibly have been a “hubris bubble.” Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait occurred on August 2, 1990. Krauthammer delivered his lecture on September 18. Operation Desert Storm didn’t begin until January 17, 1991. And hostilities ceased on February 28. The timeline of events, then, demolishes the Beinart critique.

The Krauthammer lecture itself, it’s worth adding, was no state secret. It was public, it was published, and it has been available as a monograph, in addition to the reference in the Foreign Affairs essay. In reading “The Unipolar Moment” — which was published months after the lecture on which it was based and which is not substantively different from the September 18 lecture — it is clear that the outcome of the war was unknown at the time it was written.

So Krauthammer didn’t set his sights higher because the liberation of Kuwait had been “made to look easy.” When he articulated his views on the “unipolar moment,” Kuwait had been invaded but it hadn’t been liberated. The U.S. was still months away from war. And, in fact, many predicted that if America went to war, it would be a difficult and bloody undertaking. (“Amid talk of body bags, honor and patriotism, the U.S. Congress yesterday began a formal debate on whether to go to war in the Persian Gulf,” the Toronto Star reported on January 11, 1991. “‘The 45,000 body bags that the Pentagon has sent to the gulf are all the evidence we need of the high cost in blood,’ said Senator Edward Kennedy. He added some military experts have estimated American casualties at the rate of 3,000 a week.”) That explains, in part, why the Senate vote on the Gulf War resolution was so close (52-47).

All of this is noteworthy not simply because of Beinart’s sloppiness (which is noteworthy enough), but because Beinart concocts an interpretative theory that is utter nonsense. It is based on a completely wrong premise. He builds a false explanation based on a false fact.

Beinart is not the first to have done so. On November 29, 2009 Andrew Sullivan, in a posting titled “The Positioning of Charles Krauthammer,” charged that while he had advocated a gasoline tax in December 2008, in Krauthammer’s “latest column” on climate change, “the gas tax idea is missing.” The reason, Sullivan informed us, was that “In the end, the conservative intelligentsia is much more invested in obstructing and thereby neutering Obama and the Democrats than in solving any actual problems in front of us. It’s a game for them, and they play it with impunity.”

There was one problem with Sullivan’s analysis: the column he refers to was published not in November 2009 but in May 2008 — when George W. Bush was still president and Barack Obama hadn’t yet won the Democratic nomination. Krauthammer proceeded to eviscerate Sullivan, who had the decency to issue an abject apology and correction. I wonder if Beinart will show the same decency, having made the same error.

I have some advice for liberals in general, but most especially for those who formerly edited the New Republic. First, learn to read dates on essays and columns before you attack them. Second, don’t impugn a person’s motives when your charges can so easily be shown to be false. And third, if you decide to target an individual and engage in a public debate, you might think about choosing someone other than Charles Krauthammer. Otherwise you will be made to look like fools.

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Obama OKs Assassination of American Citizen

…and no, it’s not Rush Limbaugh.

Mr. Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico and spent years in the United States as an imam, is in hiding in Yemen. He has been the focus of intense scrutiny since he was linked to Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people at Fort Hood, Tex., in November, and then to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian man charged with trying to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Dec. 25.

American counterterrorism officials say Mr. Awlaki is an operative of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the affiliate of the terror network in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. They say they believe that he has become a recruiter for the terrorist network, feeding prospects into plots aimed at the United States and at Americans abroad, the officials said.

It is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for an American to be approved for targeted killing, officials said.

Nice to know.

However, I respectfully request, Mr. President, that the following be added to your hit list:

• Customer-service rep #2346 at Time Warner Cable, Queens, New York
• Customer-service rep “Treacle” at Verizon Wireless
• Customer-service rep “Chandra” at Dell
• Customer-service rep “Mahmoud” at Vonage
• Customer-service rep “Captain Nightmare” at Citibank
• Whoever thought this was a good idea

…and no, it’s not Rush Limbaugh.

Mr. Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico and spent years in the United States as an imam, is in hiding in Yemen. He has been the focus of intense scrutiny since he was linked to Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people at Fort Hood, Tex., in November, and then to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian man charged with trying to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Dec. 25.

American counterterrorism officials say Mr. Awlaki is an operative of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the affiliate of the terror network in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. They say they believe that he has become a recruiter for the terrorist network, feeding prospects into plots aimed at the United States and at Americans abroad, the officials said.

It is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for an American to be approved for targeted killing, officials said.

Nice to know.

However, I respectfully request, Mr. President, that the following be added to your hit list:

• Customer-service rep #2346 at Time Warner Cable, Queens, New York
• Customer-service rep “Treacle” at Verizon Wireless
• Customer-service rep “Chandra” at Dell
• Customer-service rep “Mahmoud” at Vonage
• Customer-service rep “Captain Nightmare” at Citibank
• Whoever thought this was a good idea

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Business Cards?

The Washington Post reports that Major Nadal Hasan’s apartment contained some business cards imprinted as follows:

Hasans Business Card

Behavioral Health — Mental Health — Life Skills

Nidal Hasan, MD, MPH

SoA(SWT)

Psychiatrist

The Post explains: “SoA refers to ‘soldier of Allah’ or ‘slave of Allah,’ and ‘SWT’ to an Arabic phrase meaning ‘glory to him, the exalted.'” Sometimes there is simply no way to explain away reality.

The Washington Post reports that Major Nadal Hasan’s apartment contained some business cards imprinted as follows:

Hasans Business Card

Behavioral Health — Mental Health — Life Skills

Nidal Hasan, MD, MPH

SoA(SWT)

Psychiatrist

The Post explains: “SoA refers to ‘soldier of Allah’ or ‘slave of Allah,’ and ‘SWT’ to an Arabic phrase meaning ‘glory to him, the exalted.'” Sometimes there is simply no way to explain away reality.

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So Many Red Flags, So Little Action

The Washington Post‘s editors concede that there were “red flags” all around Major Nadal Hasan:

There was his troubling presentation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center on Islam and the U.S. military, and questions among colleagues about the psychiatrist’s competence and even his sanity. And there was the e-mail correspondence with a known radical Muslim cleric that caught the attention of the FBI. In isolation, they may have appeared less than actionable.

And so begins the search for an answer to the question that now absorbs the entire country: how could the Army have missed these flags? One clue, the editors note, is a report that “Walter Reed psychiatrists may have been deterred from trying to dismiss the psychiatrist because of onerous procedures; an official on a review committee reportedly asked whether the termination of a doctor who happened to be a Muslim would create an appearance problem.” Uh oh. The diversity police strike once again. Those who might have acted may have had an “appearance problem” — the fear that citing a Muslim for extremist views, aberrant behavior, and “research” with the local imam would bring on a torrent of questions and accusations. Who wants to be accused of being insufficiently “sensitive” to diversity goals?

We will see how the investigation pans out, but if the reaction to the massacre is any indication of the mindset at work here, we may find that we have once again lost our way in the diversity maze, confusing discrimination with common sense. Here the governing elites may find that the public has precious little patience for the cottage industry dedicated to lambasting those who appear “intolerant.” After all, 13 people are dead.

The Washington Post‘s editors concede that there were “red flags” all around Major Nadal Hasan:

There was his troubling presentation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center on Islam and the U.S. military, and questions among colleagues about the psychiatrist’s competence and even his sanity. And there was the e-mail correspondence with a known radical Muslim cleric that caught the attention of the FBI. In isolation, they may have appeared less than actionable.

And so begins the search for an answer to the question that now absorbs the entire country: how could the Army have missed these flags? One clue, the editors note, is a report that “Walter Reed psychiatrists may have been deterred from trying to dismiss the psychiatrist because of onerous procedures; an official on a review committee reportedly asked whether the termination of a doctor who happened to be a Muslim would create an appearance problem.” Uh oh. The diversity police strike once again. Those who might have acted may have had an “appearance problem” — the fear that citing a Muslim for extremist views, aberrant behavior, and “research” with the local imam would bring on a torrent of questions and accusations. Who wants to be accused of being insufficiently “sensitive” to diversity goals?

We will see how the investigation pans out, but if the reaction to the massacre is any indication of the mindset at work here, we may find that we have once again lost our way in the diversity maze, confusing discrimination with common sense. Here the governing elites may find that the public has precious little patience for the cottage industry dedicated to lambasting those who appear “intolerant.” After all, 13 people are dead.

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Bookshelf

Most Americans are at one and the same time moralists and latitudinarians, and from time to time these tendencies get out of sync and cause a collective convulsion. One of the most interesting and least well remembered of these convulsions took place in 1954, when public concern over the baleful effects of comic books on the juvenile mind reached such a height as to inspire a Senate hearing at which Bill Gaines, the publisher of Crime SuspenStories, assured a roomful of skeptical politicians that his product was “a work of art.” Frederic Wertham, a psychiatrist who had just published a book called Seduction of the Innocent which claimed that violent comics turned their readers into juvenile delinquents, begged to differ: “I think Hitler was a beginner compared to the comic-book industry. They get the children much younger.”

I know about these hearings because Robert Warshow published an essay in COMMENTARY called “Paul, the Horror Comics, and Dr. Wertham” in which he described with a typically thoughtful blend of wit and moral awareness how his 11-year-old son had become a fan of Crime SuspenStories and its companion publications:

Children do need some “sinful” world of their own to which they can retreat from the demands of the adult world; as we sweep away one juvenile dung heap, they will move on to another. The point is to see that the dung heap does not swallow them up, and to hope it may be one that will bring forth blossoms. But our power is limited; it is the children who have the initiative: they will choose what they want.

Fifty-four years later, David Hajdu, a historian of popular culture, has written a book called The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America (Farrar Straus Giroux, 434 pp., $26) in which the clash between Gaines and Dr. Wertham is put in historical perspective. Hajdu’s point of view is fairly standard as these things go-he describes the 50’s as an age of “postwar paranoia” and believes that the comic books of the period deserve to be taken seriously as a species of popular art-but his discussion of the short-lived frenzy over the alleged effects of comics on their consumers is both well written and, for the most part, sensible. You don’t have to share Hajdu’s reflexive distaste for the buttoned-down cultural orthodoxies of the Eisenhower Era to read The Ten-Cent Plague with pleasure and profit.

That said, I was struck by a certain narrowness of perspective on Hajdu’s part. While he appears to know everything worth knowing about the comic books of the period, his suggestion that their critics were cultural McCarthyites fails to acknowledge that the comic-book scare cut sharply across political lines. Close readers of The Ten-Cent Plague will note that the liberal establishment of the day was no less concerned about the effects of comic books on American youth, a fact that Hajdu glosses over a bit too quickly. No less revealingly, he appears to be unaware of the existence of Warshow’s oft-cited essay on horror comics, an omission that makes one wonder what else he has overlooked in his somewhat starry-eyed attempt to portray the creators of Crime SuspenStories and its companion publications as “cultural insurgents” who “helped give birth to the popular culture of the postwar era.”

I was no less struck by the fact that The Ten-Cent Plague contains only a handful of black-and-white illustrations, none of which gives a clear sense of what the horror comics of the 50’s were like. Mere verbal descriptions cannot convey their quality, though Warshow came close:

There is a picture of a baseball game in which the ball is a man’s head with one eye dangling from its socket, the bat is a severed leg, the catcher wears a dismembered human torso as chest protector, the baselines are marked with stretched-out intestines, the bases are marked with the lungs, liver, and heart, the rosin-bag is the dead man’s stomach, and the umpire dusts off home plate with the scalp.

Hajdu tiptoes cautiously past this particular example of the genre, describing it as “a baseball game played with human body parts.” I might have been more impressed by his broad-gauge indictment of 50’s culture had he been more willing to specify the exact content of the publications whose cultural transgressiveness he lauds so passionately.

Most Americans are at one and the same time moralists and latitudinarians, and from time to time these tendencies get out of sync and cause a collective convulsion. One of the most interesting and least well remembered of these convulsions took place in 1954, when public concern over the baleful effects of comic books on the juvenile mind reached such a height as to inspire a Senate hearing at which Bill Gaines, the publisher of Crime SuspenStories, assured a roomful of skeptical politicians that his product was “a work of art.” Frederic Wertham, a psychiatrist who had just published a book called Seduction of the Innocent which claimed that violent comics turned their readers into juvenile delinquents, begged to differ: “I think Hitler was a beginner compared to the comic-book industry. They get the children much younger.”

I know about these hearings because Robert Warshow published an essay in COMMENTARY called “Paul, the Horror Comics, and Dr. Wertham” in which he described with a typically thoughtful blend of wit and moral awareness how his 11-year-old son had become a fan of Crime SuspenStories and its companion publications:

Children do need some “sinful” world of their own to which they can retreat from the demands of the adult world; as we sweep away one juvenile dung heap, they will move on to another. The point is to see that the dung heap does not swallow them up, and to hope it may be one that will bring forth blossoms. But our power is limited; it is the children who have the initiative: they will choose what they want.

Fifty-four years later, David Hajdu, a historian of popular culture, has written a book called The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America (Farrar Straus Giroux, 434 pp., $26) in which the clash between Gaines and Dr. Wertham is put in historical perspective. Hajdu’s point of view is fairly standard as these things go-he describes the 50’s as an age of “postwar paranoia” and believes that the comic books of the period deserve to be taken seriously as a species of popular art-but his discussion of the short-lived frenzy over the alleged effects of comics on their consumers is both well written and, for the most part, sensible. You don’t have to share Hajdu’s reflexive distaste for the buttoned-down cultural orthodoxies of the Eisenhower Era to read The Ten-Cent Plague with pleasure and profit.

That said, I was struck by a certain narrowness of perspective on Hajdu’s part. While he appears to know everything worth knowing about the comic books of the period, his suggestion that their critics were cultural McCarthyites fails to acknowledge that the comic-book scare cut sharply across political lines. Close readers of The Ten-Cent Plague will note that the liberal establishment of the day was no less concerned about the effects of comic books on American youth, a fact that Hajdu glosses over a bit too quickly. No less revealingly, he appears to be unaware of the existence of Warshow’s oft-cited essay on horror comics, an omission that makes one wonder what else he has overlooked in his somewhat starry-eyed attempt to portray the creators of Crime SuspenStories and its companion publications as “cultural insurgents” who “helped give birth to the popular culture of the postwar era.”

I was no less struck by the fact that The Ten-Cent Plague contains only a handful of black-and-white illustrations, none of which gives a clear sense of what the horror comics of the 50’s were like. Mere verbal descriptions cannot convey their quality, though Warshow came close:

There is a picture of a baseball game in which the ball is a man’s head with one eye dangling from its socket, the bat is a severed leg, the catcher wears a dismembered human torso as chest protector, the baselines are marked with stretched-out intestines, the bases are marked with the lungs, liver, and heart, the rosin-bag is the dead man’s stomach, and the umpire dusts off home plate with the scalp.

Hajdu tiptoes cautiously past this particular example of the genre, describing it as “a baseball game played with human body parts.” I might have been more impressed by his broad-gauge indictment of 50’s culture had he been more willing to specify the exact content of the publications whose cultural transgressiveness he lauds so passionately.

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On the Soapbox

We learn from today’s New York Times that Rosie O’Donnell is in “serious discussions” to return to television “atop a new soapbox: a prime-time show on the cable news channel MSNBC.”

That is a perfect fit. MSNBC, after all, is the cable news channel that features, among others, Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews. Why not add Rosie to the mix? Her qualifications as a news journalist certainly rival those of Mr. Olbermann, who came to NBC’s news division via ESPN and Fox Sports.

The Times tells us that Mr. Olbermann’s program, which is “riding a ratings wave,” takes “strong issue” with the Bush administration. That would be one way of saying it. Another would be that Mr. Olbermann is afflicted with Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS)—defined by the Pulitzer Prize winning columnist (and former psychiatrist) Charles Krauthammer as “the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency—nay—the very existence of George W. Bush.”

Mr. Olbermann’s entire show is tendentious—but nothing quite approaches his “Special Comment” editorials. In his November 5 “Special Comment,” for example, Mr. Olbermann said, “The presidency of George W. Bush has now devolved into a criminal conspiracy to cover the ass of George W. Bush.” He spoke about “the petulancy, all the childish threats, all the blank-stare stupidity.” He referred to the “verbal flatulence of his apologists.” George W. Bush, Mr. Olbermann asserted, is a “mock president,” a “liar,” and, “if anybody had the guts to pursue it, a criminal.” Vice President Cheney is “unstable.” On and on (and on) his editorials go, with Olbermann playing a Lear-like figure, raging against the storm. One half-expects him to sign off his program not with his signature “Good night and good luck,” but with, “Off, off, you lendings! Come unbutton here.”

Read More

We learn from today’s New York Times that Rosie O’Donnell is in “serious discussions” to return to television “atop a new soapbox: a prime-time show on the cable news channel MSNBC.”

That is a perfect fit. MSNBC, after all, is the cable news channel that features, among others, Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews. Why not add Rosie to the mix? Her qualifications as a news journalist certainly rival those of Mr. Olbermann, who came to NBC’s news division via ESPN and Fox Sports.

The Times tells us that Mr. Olbermann’s program, which is “riding a ratings wave,” takes “strong issue” with the Bush administration. That would be one way of saying it. Another would be that Mr. Olbermann is afflicted with Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS)—defined by the Pulitzer Prize winning columnist (and former psychiatrist) Charles Krauthammer as “the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency—nay—the very existence of George W. Bush.”

Mr. Olbermann’s entire show is tendentious—but nothing quite approaches his “Special Comment” editorials. In his November 5 “Special Comment,” for example, Mr. Olbermann said, “The presidency of George W. Bush has now devolved into a criminal conspiracy to cover the ass of George W. Bush.” He spoke about “the petulancy, all the childish threats, all the blank-stare stupidity.” He referred to the “verbal flatulence of his apologists.” George W. Bush, Mr. Olbermann asserted, is a “mock president,” a “liar,” and, “if anybody had the guts to pursue it, a criminal.” Vice President Cheney is “unstable.” On and on (and on) his editorials go, with Olbermann playing a Lear-like figure, raging against the storm. One half-expects him to sign off his program not with his signature “Good night and good luck,” but with, “Off, off, you lendings! Come unbutton here.”

Yet reading Olbermann’s commentaries doesn’t quite do justice to them. What you would miss is seeing the haughtiness, the unsurpassed air of self-importance and arrogance, the sputtering hatred, and the boundless self-delusion (he seems to consider himself not just a journalist, but the heir of Edward R. Murrow). Of course Olbermann’s ratings have increased; this is, in its own way, riveting stuff. Never have we seen the mad utterings of a journalist put on display quite like this. It makes even the shallowness and odd obsessions of Chris Matthews seem normal in comparison. And that is no easy achievement.

One can only imagine what serious, even outstanding, journalists like Tim Russert, Brian Williams, and Pete Williams must be thinking to have their good name, and the name of NBC News, associated with the likes of Olbermann and Matthews. Tim Russert’s tough and fair-minded approach has made him one of the most widely respected journalists in America. How must he, as NBC’s Washington Bureau Chief, feel to have people like Olbermann, Matthews, and perhaps Rosie O’Donnell define the NBC News brand? It takes a long time to build up the reputation of an institution; it takes a lot less time to tear it down. Mr. Russert and his (responsible) colleagues deserve better, and can do better, than this.

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